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Post  Karl on Thu Jan 31, 2008 3:41 am

Disturbed patients refused help in squabble over cash

By David Rose

The Mental Health Act Commission has found that practitioners are being told to delay sectioning people with urgent mental health needs until primary care trusts ascertain who should pay for their treatment.

The problem is being blamed on high bed-occupancy levels and the need for PCTs to balance budgets, the Health Service Journal reports.

Mat Kinton, the commission’s senior policy analyst, said: “In the old days if a patient turned up needing to be detained, you’d just admit them and the funds would be sorted out later.” While patients await beds, they may be kept in custody by an approved social worker, put in a police cell, or “they could just be in the community”, Mr Kinton said.

The commission’s biennial report Risks, Rights, Recovery, published yesterday, criticises the practice as improper. It says: “Some practitioners have been instructed that they are required to identify the commissioning authority, and get approval for the funding of a hospital place, prior to using the powers of the [Mental Health] Act to admit a patient to hospital.”

It says that no hospital admission should be delayed “not only by the unavoidable need to search for an available bed but also by an avoidable requirement to ascertain its funding”.

Michele Hampson, chairman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists general adult and community faculty, said that delays in sectioning were extremely worrying because “detainment is the only safe option at that point”. The report followed interviews with 6,000 patients detained between 2005 and 2007 in England and Wales. It also concluded that mentally ill patients were at risk of sexual abuse because they are kept on mixed wards.

Chris Heginbotham, chief executive of the Mental Health Act Commission, said: “Staff working on psychiatric wards do a difficult job, and many of them do it very well. But too often we are shocked by what we see happening to patients in hospital.”


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